EPA Research Papers Focus on Waterborne Disease

EPA’s Office of Research and Development (ORD) and the Office of Water have published a series of papers...

EPA’s Office of Research and Development (ORD) and the Office of Water have published a series of papers summarizing research conducted on waterborne disease in the last 10 years. The work includes research supported by EPA and others and is limited to gastrointestinal illness as the health effect of concern.

The 1996 Safe Drinking Water Act Amendments (SWDA) mandated that the Agency and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention conduct five waterborne disease studies and develop a national estimate of waterborne disease.

The EPA, CDC and other authors produced a series of papers that reviews the state of the science, methods to make a national estimate of waterborne disease, models that estimate waterborne illness and recommendations to fill existing data gaps.

“The papers represent the most comprehensive review conducted in the last 25 years and the first publication of models and their results developed to estimate waterborne illness on a national level,” EPA said.

A series of manuscripts were published in the July/August 2006 supplement of the Journal of Water and Health. They include an introduction to assessing waterborne risks, a breakdown of waterborne outbreaks in the United States, and the rate of acute gastrointestinal illness in developed countries. The issue also contained a review of household drinking water intervention trials and an approach to the estimation of endemic waterborne gastroenteritis in the United States.

The authors and researchers from CDC and EPA met in July 2005 to identify data gaps and make recommendations for the next generation of health studies related to microbial exposures in drinking water. The results of that workshop are included in the publication.

The National Estimate Research was a natural extension of EPA’s intramural research program and ongoing collaborations with CDC. The SDWA also mandated that EPA and CDC conduct five waterborne disease studies. EPA and CDC sponsored two workshops in 1998 and 1999 to develop a research plan for the National Estimate and Five Waterborne Disease Studies. The program involved both US and international scientists and was focused on endemic gastrointestinal illnesses associated with microbial drinking water exposures.

The main purpose of the National Estimate papers is to review the state of the science, propose methodologies for estimating waterborne disease and the availability of data to make a National Estimate of Waterborne Disease.

Copies of the papers may be downloaded in PDF format from the EPA website at: http://www.epa.gov/nheerl/articles/2006/waterborne_disease.html

EPA Memo Clarifies “Phased TMDL” Terminology

Benita Best-Wong, Director of EPA’s Assessment and Watershed Protection Division, has issued a memo clarifying the Guidance for Water Quality-Based Decisions: The TMDL Process, issued in 1991.

She explains EPA’s interpretation of the term “phased TMDL” as used in EPA guidance, and the distinction between “phased TMDLs,” “staged implementation,” and “adaptive implementation”.

Phased TMDLs are a matter of TMDL development while staged implementation and adaptive implementation are post-development implementation concepts. Greater attention to these distinctions has emerged since EPA issued the 1991 Guidance and promulgated the Water Quality Guidance for the Great Lakes system in 1995, thus warranting the additional clarification, she wrote.

“Current EPA guidance for developing TMDLs speaks of a phased approach to developing TMDLs, frequently referred to as phased TMDLs. This concept has sometimes been misinterpreted and resulted in TMDLs that are not calculated to meet applicable water quality standards,” Best-Wong wrote. “This misinterpretation is not consistent with EPA’s interpretation of 40 CFR Part 130.7. The regulations require all TMDLs to be calculated to achieve applicable water quality standards.”

The complete memorandum has been posted on the EPA’s website at: http://www.epa.gov/owow/tmdl/tmdl_clarification_letter.html.

EPA Offers $19 Million in Watershed Grants

EPA plans to award up to $19 million in grants to help clean up and restore the nation’s waterways. Proposals must reach EPA by Oct. 16, 2006, for capacity-building grants and November 15, 2006, for project-implementation grants. Capacity-building grants provide for education and training, whereas implementation grants involve actions such as protection and preservation.

“President Bush understands that citizen-centered programs foster innovation while accelerating restoration of watersheds through cooperative conservation and grass-roots partnerships,” said Assistant Administrator for Water Benjamin H. Grumbles.

State governors and tribal leaders nominate potential recipients for implementation grants. EPA will evaluate and rank submissions based on criteria outlined in each notice. Watershed organizations receive the awards based on how likely they are to achieve environmental results in a relatively short time. Selection of the grantees will be announced in the fall.

Under the Targeted Watersheds Grant Program, EPA has awarded nearly $40 million to 46 watershed organizations since 2003. In excess of $2 million has gone to five watershed capacity-building organizations to further the activities of more than 3,000 local watershed groups. For this grant cycle, the focus will be on supporting community-based approaches and strengthening local capacity to protect and clean up water resources.

Watersheds currently in the program cover more than 142,000 square miles of the nation’s landscape draining into lakes, rivers, and streams.

On August 15, EPA released its 2005 Targeted Watersheds Grant Annual Report. It provides examples of how grant funding helps watershed partnerships advance the goals of the Clean Water Act through sound watershed plans. Comprised of informative fact sheets and colorful maps, the report highlights 34 community efforts to reach measurable clean-water goals. The report also includes summaries of grantees focused on capacity-building efforts.

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